Getting stuck in Gaza was not my proudest moments, but getting stuck there without having brought my good shoes is a colossal mistake. I did take five pairs of shoes that I planned to leave back in Gaza as I thought I do not like those as much anymore. So in other words, I left my most comfortable shoes in the States and just took the ones that I wish not to see again. It turns out that besieged Gaza is not a place to find shoes any shoes for that matter. Israel does not allow these into Gaza anymore, the Egyptians shoes brought from the tunnels are either of inferior quality or really expensive markup as Egypt places heavy customs on foreign leather products as part of their effort to encourage local industries. This explains that shoe theft from the Gaza mosques where it is really had to tell your shoes from others as pretty much shoes in Gaza come from one source and they all look similar.
Also the West Bank has been providing Gaza with a lot of she shoes in the past as they have been making shoes in Hebron for generations. As a result of the Gaza siege, those shoes are not allowed in. I believe the only two items that Israeli allows the West Bank companies to sell in Gaza are dairy products and medications. As I was preparing for my engagement party, I needed a pair of dark dressy shows and since my in laws live closer to the city and are familiar with the big stores, they offered help.
We first went to downtown Gaza, Alrimal, Gaza’s nicest business district. We stopped by Alandlos fashion store, we did not find what we want, we went to couple of other stores and could not find what we were looking for as the shirts do not quite fit my long arms and my shoulder. I was shocked by how expensive Chinese made shirts are…I believe at Marshals you can find the same ones for $14.99, but since Gaza has few suppliers, these shirts where in the upward of 40 dollars. The store owners were insulted as they were taking pride in their products and I was telling them, do not be too proud. We went to Alnasir district, another nice area in Gaza that has shops and restaurants.
We stopped by the ‘Marshal” stores, we did find the tie, I had agreed with my father in law I would let him pay for the tie, but I pay for the shirt. We did not find the shirt we wanted, so we ended having to go back to Alrimal and bought a shirt that we thought would be good. I haggled with the guy and got it for a bit more than 30 dollars. For the shoe, we ended up going to Alsheikh Ridwan market, a business district that has similar goods sold at the nice districts for less. The biggest shoe store “Basal” that once was too busy to talk to you and used to have so many inventories that you could not put your feet on the ground. Needless to say, the store now looks abandoned, lots of dusty shelves and not too many choices nor customers.
I did finally find a dark pair that would do the job, but they are so uncomfortable that I had to literary crushed my feet in to fit. The store owner claimed that this shoe is made in Hebron and shipped to Egypt then smuggled to Gaza from the tunnels as opposed to being shipped straight to Gaza. I think he wanted 50 dollars for that pair, I think my father in law and I ganged up on the guy and got it for a bit under 40 dollars. When I got home, my family said, this is a bargain you do not find many of these shoes anymore in Gaza. I wore the shoe for my engagement and I did wear it twice after that and I was so happy to leave it back in Gaza, something I did to all my shoes.
A number of NGOs in Gaza has recognized the lack of shoes in Gaza and launched shoes for Gaza campaigns, I know ANERA and the UNRWA have both giving out shoes for school children.